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Observations of a Young Nigerian Female . Powered by Blogger.

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I am young, "normal" and I like to write. People say I eat too much, people don't know what they are saying.

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Fred Swaniker - On Failure

On failure..
For the last 16 years, I’ve been an entrepreneur. Apart from African Leadership Academy, African Leadership Network, and African Leadership University, I have dabbled in other industries---the first ‘major’ venture I helped launch was a biotechnology company called Synexa Life Sciences. That company today employs about 70 scientists and has offices in Cape Town, Berlin, London and Dublin. I also founded a company called Global Leadership Adventures (headquartered in California) which provides international leadership experiences for about 3,000 young people each year from all over the world. We have 30 sites in 16 countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
But one business that is noticeably absent from my biography is a fashion business I once tried to start. I called it “F.K Swaniker”. Here is the brilliant idea I thought I had at the time: we would provide personalized tailoring to help busy professional men all over the world look "slick". The tailors would go to the men at work or at home, take their measurements, and allow them to choose their fabrics. Then we’d send the measurements to tailors in Thailand. We chose Thailand because their tailors could produce suits and shirts at low cost, rapid speed, and high quality.
So we created a website, and four of my friends signed up to get their suits. A local tailor took their measurements and we sent them off to Thailand. But when the orders came, there was a small problem: the suit jackets fit well, but the trousers didn’t! The tailors in Thailand had underestimated the dimensions of the thighs and ‘backsides’ of African men! Needless to say that business no longer exists :)
I learned a few lessons from that failure that have helped me think through new ventures:
#1 When failure happens, it’s your opportunity to stop, reflect and learn:
Often, when everything is going well, we don’t take time out to consciously assess what we are doing and why it’s working. So we lose out on gaining valuable knowledge about why we are successful. But when we fail, it forces us to do some important analysis.
For example, after my fashion business ended , I spent some time reflecting on what had gone wrong. I realized I had overlooked the risks in one part of the chain (the tailors) and that ultimately broke the business.
This was a learning moment---now, whenever I start a new venture, I’m much more careful to ensure that I check for potential risks and try to solve for them before I even get started. So yearn for failure. It’s how you’re going to grow and learn.
#2 Build something you’re passionate about:
While I certainly don’t mind looking dapper every now and then, I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘fashionista’ by any means. Yet I decided to go into it anyway. That’s the first mistake I made. As an entrepreneur, you need to make sure you’re truly passionate about the sector you want to play in. That passion will sustain you when things go badly (which they inevitably will). For example, I probably could have made the business work if I really wanted to—I could have hired a different tailor or simply learned how to adjust our measurements to Thai dimensions. But I didn’t have enough emotional investment to fix it because fashion just  wasn’t a core passion of mine. So I just moved on to something else.
#3 Failure is your path to a better business:
As an entrepreneur, you are guaranteed to fail multiple times. You might launch a product you think is perfect, that you spent months working on, and discover that no one buys it. You might spend months working on a beautiful website and after launching discover you have very few visitors. These “failures” can be crushing, but they also reveal the things you can do to create a better product. What you should understand is that failure is essentially feedback from your customers telling you what you should change about your  product or service. When something doesn’t work initially—as long as you’re really passionate about it-- don’t give up. Just use the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and make improvements based on the feedback (positive and negative) that you are getting from your customers. Failure is often the source of major breakthroughs that eventually lead to the success of your venture.
#4 If you’re not failing, you’re not thinking big enough:
Those who change the world have the courage to take risks. With any risk comes the chance of failure. So if you never experience any failures, that means you are being too cautious, and not thinking big enough. So don’t let your failures get you down. Acknowledge the issues, learn from them, and move on. Celebrate the fact that you tried. There are too many exciting businesses waiting to be founded for you to get depressed or to beat yourself up when things go wrong. Optimism, resilience and faith are some of the most critical factors of success for an entrepreneur. So the odd failure is a great signal. It means you’re thinking big enough, taking enough risk, and that you might just be on the path to changing the world.
Have you tried to start something before and failed? What lessons did you learn from the experience? Share with me in the comments below

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  1. Was once in a leadership position,and for every plan the board brought,I generated four possible failures to it. Instead of finding possible solutions,They called me Mr Failure, Pessimist and all, that I lacked faith(it was a religious organisation anyway), I shut up, watched them make the plans and watched them fail. I totally concur with this post,make plans, generate possible failures and tackle them before they come.

    Thumbs up


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